Members of Manchester’s Jewish community held a secret meeting with Tommy Robinson, the former leader of the far-right English Defence League.
The controversial meeting, which took place in Prestwich last week, was billed as a charity fundraiser, but also saw Mr Robinson deliver a speech outlining his extreme views on Islam.
The JC spoke to one community member who confirmed her friends had organised the session, but said she would "take legal action" if her own name was linked to the event.
Another source confirmed the meeting with Mr Robinson, who is a former British National Party member, went on until “the early hours” of last Thursday morning. Around a dozen people attended.
Invitations to attend were extended to other community groups including the North West Friends of Israel – but its spokesman Anthony Dennison said the group had declined the invitation.
Mr Dennison said: "We find some of Tommy Robinson’s opinions abhorrent. Unfortunately in our community there are a small number of people who are attracted his policies.
“This is unacceptable, and something North West Friends of Israel will never be associated with.”
They say as I'm about to deliver a speech to a Jewish crowd in a hotel 😂😂 you do not speak for the Jewish people https://t.co/VVHZ5FxmgW— Tommy Robinson 🇬🇧 (@TRobinsonNewEra) June 29, 2017
Jeremy Newmark, Jewish Labour Movement chairman, confirmed local activists from his organisation had been left “outraged” after learning of the event.
Mr Newmark told the JC: "No ifs, no buts, Tommy Robinson is an enemy of our community. He is part of the same political tradition as the National Front and the BNP.”
Mr Robinson has long attempted to court British Jews and has travelled to Israel, proclaiming himself to be a “Zionist”.
In a video posted on the right-wing Youtube outlet Rebel Media on June 30, Mr Robinson is filmed introducing lawyer Robert Festenstein, a director of the Jewish Human Rights Watch group, in a feature about a Sunderland shopkeeper who was told to remove an anti-terrorism sign from the front of her shop.
Mr Festenstein told the JC: "I was interviewed by Mr Robinson in connection with a matter where I am instructed by a client who has a potential dispute with Sunderland City Council. Mr Robinson is not my client and I have no association with him.
"As far as any meeting in Manchester with Mr Robinson was concerned, I was not invited, nor did I attend such a meeting."
In a statement, the Board of Deputies condemned last week’s meeting saying: “Tommy Robinson’s record of anti-Muslim provocation means that he could never be a partner of a respectable or mainstream Jewish organisation.”
😂😂😂😂 people actually think I'm a Jew . I've gone full 360 over last 8 yrs. from people thinking I hate Jews to people thinking I am a Jew https://t.co/uQRGoSFVRm— Tommy Robinson 🇬🇧 (@TRobinsonNewEra) July 4, 2017
A spokesman for the left-wing Jewish Voice group said: “Tommy Robinson has been attempting to co-opt the Jewish community, trying to play on antisemitism among the Muslim community to cause tension between the two communities.”
Mr Robinson confirmed on Twitter that the meeting took place.
“This was from the talk I gave to Manchester Jewish community. Thank you guys for the donations,” he wrote.
In a further post today, Mr Robinson added: "People actually think I'm a Jew. I've gone full 360 over last 8 yrs. From people thinking I hate Jews to people thinking I am a Jew."
The event raised £400 for the AmeliaMae Foundation – a charity raising funds for people affected by the neuroblastoma condition.
Mark Gardner, director of communications at the Community Security Trust said: “CST and our partner groups firmly oppose any such meeting between Jews and the likes of Tommy Robinson.
"We should be clear, however, that a gathering of 12 people does not change the Jewish community’s overwhelming rejection of dead-end politics that only divide and damage British society.”